A guide to Colorado’s 2014 elections
DENVER — A look at what to watch for in Tuesday’s midterm elections in Colorado:
TOP OF THE TICKET
Democrats have pulled out all the stops to try to save Sen. Mark Udall, who polls indicate is vulnerable to defeat by Republican Rep. Cory Gardner in a race that is key to control of the U.S. Senate.
Appearing in Colorado in recent weeks have been first lady Michelle Obama, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and both Clintons — former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Udall is seeking a second term against a headwind of voter discontent with Congress and the Obama administration.
Gardner and conservative allies have kept up a drumbeat for months linking Udall to Obama, trying to capitalize on sour approval numbers for the president. Gardner described himself as a “new kind of Republican,” hoping to be the first Republican in a decade to win a top-of-the-ticket race in Colorado.
Republicans need six seats to take control of the Senate. A Colorado win would mean the state remains a battleground for either party.
Democrats say their relentless ground game of knocking on doors and reminding folks to vote can secure a win in even the most difficult political circumstances.
Four years ago, the strategy helped Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet come from behind to win re-election. Bennet now leads the Senate Democrats’ national campaign arm, charged with defending their Senate majority.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s re-election campaign may be the biggest surprise of the election season.
The governor once was considered a shoo-in for a second term, while his opponent was considered a laughingstock for losing badly for governor six years ago.
But the race between Hickenlooper and former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez is tighter than almost anyone expected.
It’s been a rocky couple of years for Hickenlooper, from signing into law a 2013 gun-control package that even he later questioned, to blocking attempts from his own party to give local government more control over oil and gas drilling.
Beauprez is trying to ride a wave of voter dissatisfaction with incumbents and Democrats. Beauprez also has attacked Hickenlooper’s leadership style, describing him as indecisive on matters such as the death penalty.
Six of Colorado’s seven congressional seats have seen low-key campaigns in which incumbents are poised to return to Washington without much rancor. But the one competitive race has been a doozy.
Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and Democrat Andrew Romanoff have been waging Colorado’s most expensive congressional contest in history, counting indirect spending from groups outside either campaign.
The 6th Congressional District in the suburbs south and east of Denver has been in Republican hands since its creation after the 1980 census. But three years ago the district was redrawn to give almost equal balance to Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters.
Democrats came close to defeating Coffman in 2012 with a little-known state lawmaker, and they’re hoping former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff pulls it off.
Republicans are watching to see if Coffman manages to pivot from a staunch illegal immigration opponent to a candidate who can appeal to a growing Latino population. Coffman has been spending weekends with a Spanish tutor and participated last month in what was believed to be the first Colorado congressional debate in a language other than English when he debated Romanoff in Spanish.
Colorado and Oregon are battlegrounds this year in a national war over genetically modified organisms, or organisms that have been altered at the molecular or cellular level.
Voters in both states are considering measures that would require the labeling of certain genetically modified foods.
Each proposal would apply to raw and packaged foods produced entirely or partially by genetic engineering. The measures would not apply to food served in restaurants.
Colorado voters also are weighing a constitutional amendment that would add “unborn human beings” to the state’s criminal code. Some say the measure could be interpreted to block abortion rights and give so-called “personhood” rights to unborn children.
Another proposed amendment would change the state constitution to allow casino gambling at a horse racetrack in suburban Denver, and at two other future locations, with the promise that the taxes raised will funnel $114 million a year to public schools.
Voters also will decide whether to require some school board negotiations with teachers’ unions to be open to the public.
Colorado is picking a new attorney general for the first time in 10 years with the retirement of Republican John Suthers.
Battling to succeed Suthers is Democrat Don Quick, the former Adams County district attorney, and Republican Cynthia Coffman, currently chief deputy to Suthers.
Voters will also choose a new secretary of state to succeed Republican Scott Gessler, who resigned for an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid. Republican El Paso County clerk and recorder Wayne Williams is up against Democrat Joe Neguse, currently a University of Colorado regent.
In the final constitutional office, Republican Treasurer Walker Stapleton seeks a second term against Democrat Betsy Markey, a Fort Collins businesswoman and former member of Congress.
Colorado Democrats have a comfortable cushion in the state House. But the party’s slim majority in the Senate hangs by a thread.
There are eight competitive Senate races, and Democrats need to win six to keep their one-seat majority. Races in Denver’s suburbs will determine which party controls the chamber.
Democrats have controlled the Senate since 2005. But Republicans feel they’re within striking distance of a majority, partly because two districts have open seats being vacated by term-limited Democrats — Sen. Lois Tochtrop in Thornton and Sen. Gail Schwartz in Snowmass Village.
Four Democrats are trying to keep their seats in suburban Jefferson County, a swing county that has seen intense campaigning.
Associated Press writers Ivan Moreno and Nicholas Riccardi contributed to this report.
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